Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Independent Salford Beer Festival

I was too excited not to say a few quick words today: I simply cannot wait to be at the Independent Salford Beer Festival (24th-25th October) this evening! For one night only I’ll be back behind the bar, serving the good people of Manchester great cask beer from either side of the Pennines, and it’s all to raise money for St Sebastian’s Community Centre. Jim (of BeersManchester fame) has put together a rather exciting beer list, including the one and only cask of Five-Oh Brew Co’s Sorachi Ace Stout (6.5%)!  Tonight and Saturday arvo are sold out(!), but there are still a few Saturday evening tickets left. See you there; it’ll be a blast. Don’t forget to say hi if you spot me on the bar!

indy salford beer fest

Cans vs Bottles: The Taste Test

all day ipa

I actually considered not running this post for a while, lest I am accused of writing only about contentious subjects post leaflet debacle; fuck it though, it’s what’s at the top of the write-up list (and hardly a hot button topic any more). 

Bottles. Cans. There has been extensive discussion about the pros and cons, including this rather good piece by New Belgium on sustainability. Of course, cans prevent the beer from becoming light struck, but how does this actually translate to taste? One evening in the Northern Quarter, I joined Mike of Chorlton Brewing Company at Port Street Beer House to see if we could tell the difference.

We chose Founders All Day IPA as our test subject because A) it’s easy to obtain in various forms, B) differences in hop character would be easy to pick out, and C) it had travelled from America, so was already less than totally fresh.  Obtaining a bottle and a can, both chilled, we set up a triangle tasting – three sample glasses were poured out of sight of the taster, two containing beer from one packaging, one from the other. This obviously isn’t a perfect test by any means, but we did the best we could on the spur of the moment in a pub garden! I tried not to look too hard at the beer in the glasses before I smelled and tasted it, in case there was a difference in appearance (the above photo was, of course, staged to illustrate a tweet).

Unsurprisingly, the difference was marked, both in aroma and flavour. Of the samples I tasted, two were hugely aromatic, with massive citrus bursts, while one was subdued and a little elderflowery. Yes, it transpired that it was the can samples which were hop bombs, and the bottle which was tired and wishy-washy. “But what about freshness?” you ask: if we read the labels correctly, the beer in the can was older than the beer in the bottle.

This little (poorly controlled) experiment confirmed my expectations: cans are great for hoppy beer! Yes, I know you all knew that already. As you were.

CAMRA’s Sexist Young Members Leaflet

camra leaflet scan high quality 2camra leaflet scan high quality 1

Earlier today, my attention was drawn to this leaflet. No, it’s not advertising a tacky pin-up Freshers club night. It’s the new Young Members leaflet from the Campaign for Real Ale, sent out to affiliated university real ale societies for them to distribute to students. This leaflet is supposed to encourage young people to join CAMRA.

I must admit, when I first clapped eyes on this, I thought it might be a hoax, a cruel joke at the expense of CAMRA in order to stir up antipathy; after all, how could such a huge organisation, full of reasonable people, put out something so archaic and offensive?

What sort of people do they want to attract? Slavering ‘lads’, drawn to the organisation because of the use of attractive women as window dressing? They can’t be hoping to attract young women or non-idiotic young men with these images. I understand that CAMRA want to move away from the stereotype of the beer-bellied beardies wearing socks and sandals, but don’t they realise that by putting these scantily clad models in their recruitment literature, they’re further entrenching the idea that it’s an organisation full of letchy, out-of-touch old men? Surely, this leaflet couldn’t be real?

Sadly, my faith in the sanity of CAMRA Head Office was misplaced. I soon received confirmation from my old friends at Leeds University Union Real Ale Society that they had been sent these leaflets, and that one of their members had started the petition to get them withdrawn. The leaflets were delivered two weeks ago, and since then the members who contacted CAMRA to complain were brushed off with claims that because there were women on the board, the organisation could not create anything sexist. There were also references made to some sort of ‘quality control’ process which the leaflet had undergone.

I was informed by the National Chairperson of CAMRA Young Members that they had indeed been shown the leaflets to approve, but the Young Members committee informed CAMRA HQ that the leaflets were not fit for purpose.

Not fit for purpose.

The YM committee were unaware that the leaflets had been printed and distributed, until today. I suppose that shows how much CAMRA respects the opinions of the people it’s trying to recruit with this outdated mess.

I’ve seen nothing but disappointment and disbelief in response to the leaflet, from CAMRA members and non-members alike (aside from one random person on Twitter who believes that it isn’t an issue). This marketing campaign should have been binned straight off the storyboard, and even if it had somehow slipped under the barriers of, you know, good taste and not alienating people, when the Young Members committee deemed it not fit for purpose, they should have been listened to.

It’s such a pity. Many branches are very reasonable and progressive, but when these sort of attitudes come down directly from HQ, blatantly ignoring the people they’re supposed to be representing, it’s time for me to stop being complicit in this organisation’s institutional sexism.

This isn’t an attack on CAMRA members or the branches. This is just me saying that I’m sorely disappointed in the decisions of the organisation. I won’t be renewing my membership. If you agree that this type of thing isn’t on, please sign this petition which calls for a halt to the distribution of this leaflet.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS – I quote Franzi Florack, creator of the petition:

“This morning (14/10/14) CAMRA published a statement which confirmed that the flyers had been withdrawn. Unfortunately it does not acknowledge the sexist nature of the flyers and only states that they ‘would like to apologise for any offence this may have caused’- which neither admits fault nor discusses how this will not happen again in the future.

The statement further claims that ‘the campaign was discussed with young marketing professionals within CAMRA’s Young Membership Marketing Group (YMMG), which is made up of men and women, and they supported this creative’. Whilst this might be true, I have also been informed that the CAMRA Young Members committee saw the leaflets, too, and their protest was ignored.

In my last update, I asked CAMRA to issue
’1. A public apology to the university societies which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers
2. A public apology to the CAMRA Young Members board which acknowledges that these volunteers have been deliberately overlooked and a promise that this will not happen again in the future’
and neither of the two has been received.

As a result, this campaign will stay open until a public apology has been issued which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers and includes the above apologies. I do applaud CAMRA’s wish to work with ‘CAMRA’s young membership to create a new campaign’, however until fault has been acknowledged there is no guarantee that these voices will actually be heard.

Some people have been calling for CAMRA to create an inclusive manifesto and I wholeheartedly support that idea. These sexist representations of women panders to the sort of gender stereotypes that portray women as sex objects. They also make life difficult for women as well as discouraging women from drinking beer and getting involved in activism to save pubs and other important beer heritage sites.

Please continue to sign and pass on the campaign- we need your support more than ever.”

I also include this screenshot of tweets from the CAMRA Young Members twitter account, which is at odds with claims in the official ‘apology’ that the leaflets were supported by the YM Marketing Group.

YM Tweets

15/10/14: People had been asking for a higher quality photo of the leaflet, and Franzi kindly sent me the scanned copy. Click the pictures at the top if you want a proper look or, as CAMRA put it, if you’re ‘thirsty for more’.